What Can YOU Say About Querying?

Monday, September 30, 2013
I left the crazy world recruiting in the financial industry and found myself (after a decade mind you) still scouring resumes, cover letters, and checking references as I was the Director of Operations at a busy call center. With my eyes closed (and probably in my sleep) I can tell you what to do and what not to do when job hunting. Here I am in the writing world (and loving it by the way) and I find it ironic how authors can make a cover letter sound so special. “I sent out 4 queries last month” someone will say during a conversation about goals and publishing – and doesn’t that sound very special indeed? Of course, it is…but because I’m new to this world, I had to find that out for myself.

What’s a girl to do when she isn’t sure what all the fuss is about? Well, she turns to her smart phone when no one is looking…

Google pointed me in the right direction and ultimately I found the October 2010 issue of Writer’s Digest which explained the basics of mastering a query letter. The article is very helpful, but I was astonished how closely it matched everything I already knew about writing a cover letter:

• Know something about the person you are sending the letter to (use their name instead of something generic)
• Summarize what it is you have to offer (in the case of a query, tell them about your book – in the case of a cover letter, tell them what you bring to the table for the job)
• Make a comparison (talk about similar books – or if you’re applying for a job, talk about an experience at a similar company where you excelled)
• Say something about yourself (people like real people…you are more than just a query or a cover letter, aren’t you?)
• Promise a follow up – and follow through on it! (Whether a query or a job hunt, you’re going to follow up with a phone call, another email, a letter, etc… in a certain period of time, right? Let them know what your intentions are!)

So – now we know how to write a query or get an employer’s attention with our cover letter, right? Well, Google brought up another good point that I feel only YOU (Dear WOW! Readers) can answer for me: DO LITERARY AGENTS REALLY READ THEM?

What has been your experience? When you speak to a literary agent, have they actually read your query? How do you know if they read it or not? What do you recommend to other writers as they set out on their journey with querying?

Thank you in advance for your help and comments; that's one of the things I love about authors - the community is so encouraging of one another!


Crystal is a church musician, business owner, active journaler, writer and blogger as well as a dairy farmer. She lives in Reedsville, Wisconsin with her husband, two young children (Carmen 6 and Andre 5), three dogs, two rabbits, four little piggies, and over 200 Holsteins. Crystal and her husband, Mark, are hoping that by the time you read this they will be holding their newest addition, a little boy named Breccan! You can find Crystal blogging at: http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/


Unknown said...

My experience is that at least some do, as most of my rejections have been personalised and say something about my work that proves they read it.

You can't be sure when you get form letter rejections, you just have to have faith they did.

I'm fairly sure that most agents and editors do read what's sent to them, because just like we writers dream of being published and becoming the next big thing, they dream of finding a writer who will be the next big thing.

All the best with your querying.

Sioux Roslawski said...

I agree with Kirstie. Some read them, and some read SOME of them, meaning they read to a certain point and if they get bored or turned off by the tone, they'll stop. And toss it.

www.havetotewilltravel.com said...

Most of the time, whether it be a rejection or a request for partial manuscript, the response I receive comes from the agent's assistant.

Unknown said...

I've never heard they don't read query letters, but then again, the only ones I've sent have been for magazine articles, not books. I'm sure those get read.

Margo Dill said...

I think they read at least the first paragraph of most query letters. They want clients as someone up there said. Your first paragraph should be outstanding to catch their attention and keep them reading.

Anonymous said...

If the agent has asked for the first five pages or the first 250 words--whatever--I think that is the text that is read first, either by the agent or the agent's assistant/intern.

If the agent likes those words, THEN I think he or she will read the query letter. Good writing will grab interest, and a good query letter is like sprinkles on the cake. Yummy, but not necessary. :-)

Anne Leonard said...

I think most read, but it's really important not just to know the agent name. Query agents who represent writers you like and say that is why you are querying them so they know you aren't taking the scattershot approach.

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